Alexandria's Tenants' and Workers' Support Committee has been named as one of 17 recipients of the 2003 Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World (LCW) award.
The winners were selected from among 1,300 nominations. Each winner will receive $100,000 to advance their work and an additional $15,000 for supporting activities over the next two years. The program also includes a major, multiyear collaborative research initiative that works with awardees to explore how leadership is created and sustained.
"These awards recognize the achievement of remarkable people working to bring positive social change to their communities and beyond," said Susan B. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. "In celebrating their accomplishments we also seek to illuminate the particular characteristics of effective social justice leadership, which the LCW's collaborative research with awardees is beginning to identify."
John Liss, executive director of TWSC, said, "We are thrilled, of course. I believe that we were chosen because of our work in a variety of areas and because that work involves representatives from our multi-national community. In addition to the African-American and white people who work with us, we have brought a significant number of Latinos and Latinas as well as African and Asian folks together. They come to advocate for specific causes such as the rights of taxicab drivers and then stay to get involved in other aspects of civic affairs."
IN SELECTING TWSC, representatives from the Ford Foundation spent time with Liss and the leadership team. "They visited with Sheryl Bell, one of our Board members, who is also an in-home daycare provider and with other members of our team," Liss said. "All of our work is a team effort."
Liss plans to use the money from the award to support ongoing activities. "Our major new initiative over the next year is the planning of a multi-purpose community center," he said.
In June, City Council expressed support for the concept and asked staff to work with Liss on the project. That collaboration is ongoing.
"We expect the multi-purpose center to have programs for teens, information and referral and will allow us to continue our work to get more people involved in civic affairs," Liss said.
LCW was launched in September, 2000, and is a program of the Ford Foundation in partnership with the Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.
"We hope to stimulate a nationwide discussion about the rich array of leadership styles in the United States and increase public understanding and appreciation of the extraordinary accomplishments of these largely unrecognized leaders," said Kathleen D. Sheekey, president and CEO of the Advocacy Institute.
IN ADDITION TO making an immediate difference in their communities, LCW winners have also achieved excellence in their leadership methods.
"As one of our early observations, we're noting what we call the leadership paradox of social justice leadership," said Sonia Ospina, co-director of the New York University's Center for Leadership Development, Dialogue and Inquiry, which is coordinating the LCW research effort. "His [Liss] kind of leadership reflects a capacity to pursue and meet imperatives that seem very different; doing the right thing but also being financially viable; rooting oneself in a particular community while reaching out to diverse constituencies; balancing the power of individual vision with the power of the collective process," said Ospina.